The World’s Fixation on PFAS Pollution: Maniacal or Mandatory? The World’s Fixation on PFAS Pollution: Maniacal or Mandatory?

The World’s Fixation on PFAS Pollution: Maniacal or Mandatory?

Back when the world was excited at the dawn of another new century, great hopes were made. As the era of technology advanced with each passing year, it seemed like problems abound more than solutions. 

Today, almost every popular gazette is making per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS their subject of focus. This group of over 12,000 complex chemicals has been around for quite a while now. 

With their chemistry discovered in the 1930s, they became a major part of the consumer goods and firefighting industry. Just like any other synthetic chemical, it seems like their time has run out. 

In this article, we will discuss the world’s fixation on PFAS and whether such a frenzy is justified. 

Context for Those in the Dark 

The American multinational giant, 3M, began phasing out PFAS in the 1950s. By this time, these chemicals’ properties of water and oil resistance made them popular for non-stick cookware, stain-repellent carpets, and firefighting foam. 

Class B firefighting foam called the Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) was produced predominantly using PFAS. For decades, this foam became the extinguisher for liquid-fuel fires. A tragic outbreak of cancer among firefighters changed public sentiments forever. 

In 2017, a group of injured firefighters made their way into the Federal court with an AFFF foam lawsuit. They alleged that the foam was the reason behind their kidney, testicles, and bladder cancers. A year in, a class-action multi-district litigation (MDL) proved the authenticity of their claims. 

Even municipalities sued PFAS manufacturers for severe water contamination. Over the next few years, the litigation only kept growing until all water contamination cases were settled in 2023. According to TorHoerman Law, over 8,000 personal injury cases are still pending, and awaiting settlements. 

This shows the extent of damage PFAS has already done. What’s more, is that only time will reveal how many more cases pile up in this litigation. 

New Discoveries Made Everyday 

Whenever the word ‘discovery’ is used in scientific terms, people expect some sort of breakthrough or contemporary solution for existing issues. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the world of PFAS. 

Given these chemicals’ dangers, every discovery points towards a potential public health crisis waiting to explode. Still, PFAS are practically discovered everywhere – food, soil, air, water, etc. Scientists have found that at least 50% of US tap water contains traces of these chemicals. This means at this very moment, millions of Americans are consuming water laden with PFAS. 

Moreover, rainwater samples were collected from every region across the world, including the remote parts of Antarctica. What was discovered? Every country today has PFAS mingled with its rainwater. We may confidently assume that all human beings currently alive (even newborns) could have varying degrees of PFAS in their blood. 

By this time, it is clear that PFAS are ubiquitous, right? Another longitudinal study conducted in 2024 showed that processed meats, teas, and outside food in general will increase the PFAS levels in the body over time. 

When we combine this with the fact that most food corporations’ packages are lined with a film of these chemicals, it makes perfect sense. This is true even of brands promoting themselves as organic or non-toxic. 

Finally, let’s focus our attention on the latest report to date, centered on all our Great Lakes. It has been found that the concentration of these chemicals is steadily rising in Lake Michigan and others. 

This, though gravely concerning, should not come as a surprise since tapping into these Great Lakes is what makes public water available. When we put all the pieces of discovery together, can you see how large-scale and far-reaching the problem is? 

The ‘Investing in America’ Agenda 

Ah! After decades of watching PFAS simply proliferate the earth and years of legal battles against PFAS manufacturers, the Biden-Harris administration has stepped in. Could this be our 21st century ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?’

In April 2024, the government disclosed its commitment to curbing PFAS pollution. The first-ever National Drinking Water Standard was introduced to safeguard the health of nearly 100 million people. The ‘Investing in America’ agenda collaborates with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a new fund of $1 billion.

This money will be provided to territories and states for PFAS testing, management, and remediation. This funding is only a part of the larger picture involving $9 billion to support communities already impacted by PFAS water pollution. 

Moreover, $12 billion is reserved for general drinking water improvements across the country. This is considered to be a whole-of-government approach to make clean, drinking water accessible for all Americans. 

The EPA has already estimated that between 6% and 10% of the total 66,000 public water systems will have to take serious action against PFAS contamination. 

PFAS Remediation Is the Need of the Hour 

Is the contemporary world heavily fixated on PFAS pollution? Yes, especially in the past six years or so. This is by no means a delirious state of being. On the contrary, it may be argued that it was high time for concrete PFAS removal measures to be in place. 

Researchers worldwide are looking for effective strategies to get rid of PFAS presently bio-accumulating the world and human bodies. Countries have resolved to end all PFAS production by early 2026. At least we do know that 3M has vowed to end its production of ‘forever chemicals’ by the end of 2025.

Lastly, even the firefighting industry has some cause to rejoice as PFAS-based AFFF will soon be completely out of the picture. Even today, their use is restricted to urgent scenarios. 

Gradually, PFAS-free, non-toxic alternatives are expected to be rolled out on a consistent basis. Firefighters can look forward to their work day without the fear of crippling conditions like cancer lurking in their minds. 

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